Nathan Lester House & Farm Tool Museum

Front view of Nathan Lester House, taken from south to north; NRIS 72001328.
Historic/Common Name:
Nathan Lester House
Address:
153 Vinegar Hill Road
Town:
Ledyard »
Year:
1760
Historic Designation:
LHP, NR, SR
Property Authority:
Ledyard Historic District Commission
Nature of Authority:
Regulatory
Eligible for Historic Home tax credits:
Yes
General description:

The Nathan Lester House is a typical Connecticut farmhouse with the expected nine-window facade and central chimney stack floor plan. It is described by John 0. Curtis, Curator of Architecture at Old Sturbridge Village, as a 'simple, sensible and perfectly unpretentious farmhouse.' Mr. Curtis found the house unique for its "superb state of preservation in which it has come down to the present. Seldom does one see an ancient housesurviving so essentially unaltered as to form, plan and decorative detailing." It is a large house with a familiar floor plan: two parlors flanking the stair hall against the chimney stack, at the rear a large kitchen with the usual commodious fireplace and brick bake oven at its left. Flanking the kitchen are two pantries, one of which may once have been a downstairs bedchamber. The size of the house permits an additional small chamber on one side balanced by a side entry on the other. At the second floor are the usual parlor chambers at the front and three rooms across the rear. The foundation is of dressed Connecticut red sandstone of generous height, which has probably contributed to the structure's fine state of preservation. The basement is of greater-than-average depth. Perhaps within a decade of the building of the original portion of the house, a two-story ell was run out at the rear. It is a spacious area and has much of the original fabric intact. The house has six fireplaces, one more than the usual number in a house of this form and plan. At least two are distinguished by handsomely dressed stone splays; all seem to be in an excellent state of preservation. [NR]

Significance of the property:

Since the Nathan Lester House has survived nearly two hundred years of continuous use and is still in very good condition, one can call it an unusual structure. The frame, solidly built of oak, shows no signs of bulging or sagging. The architectural refinements in terms of decoration are minimal, as would be expected in a farmhouse of this period in a rural area. For example, the three run stair has square balusters, set on the diagonal, atop an open string embellished with characteristically Connecticut scalloped brackets. There is fielded paneling on the soffit of the stair and an intriguing localism in the form of a set-back half-way upstairs running the full width of the well (a function of the masonry construction of the chimney stack), and a simple molded hand-rail terminating at modest square posts. The principal parlor has a wall of fine paneling, a molded chair rail, and crown molding room cornice only atop the paneled chimney wall. Superimposed upon the paneling of the chimney wall is an attractive and simple mantle piece in the Greek Revival style of the 1830's and l840's. Besides being an architecturally important structure, the Lester House is also significant for its history. [NR]

Relationship with the Surroundings:

The 110 acres property is bounded by Vinegar Hill Road on three sides- north, west and the south. The property includes the Ledyard Oak, an unusually large white oak measuring more than five feet in diameter. Much Indian lore is connected with the tree. The property also a dozen or so unmarked graves on the property. The house remained in the family until 1908 when it was bought by Dr. and Mrs. Charles B. Graves. In 1965 Elizabeth Graves Hill gave the tree, the house, and 11 acres of land to the Town of Ledyard as a memorial to her parents. The town has purchased an additional 99 acres under the Open Space Program; the total of 110 acres forming the local historic district. The great tree is now the nucleus of a town park of 11 acres. Although it died out around It died around 1970, according to experts it will stand for another seventy-five years. [NR]

Features:
Building, Open Spaces, Park, Others- Graves, Oak Trees
Historic Use:
Farm house
Present Use:
House museum and local history center, Park
Architectural Style:
Farm house
Era:
18th Century
Ownership:
Public
Owner:
Town Of Ledyard
Sources:

[1] District information retrieved from the town website http://www.town.ledyard.ct.us/.
Assessors information and GIS map retrieved from the website http://www.ledyardgis.com/.
[NR] Babbitt Susan, Nathan Lester House, National Register Nomination Number- 72001328 NRIS, National Park Service, 1972. http://pdfhost.focus.nps.gov/docs/NRHP/Text/72001328.pdf; http://pdfhost.focus.nps.gov/docs/NRHP/Photos/72001328.pdf

Map:

Map of the historic property retrieved from the online GIS information, accessed from the town website.

View photo
Date of Compilation:
12/31/11
Compiler:
Manjusha Patnaik, CT Trust for Historic Preservation